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Cigar 101

What are Fumas?

J. Bennett Alexander Alexander's picture

J. Bennett Alexander

When the late José Orlando Padrón started selling his cigars in Miami in the early 1960s, it was a cazador, a cigar that took its shape from being packed wet in the box, that he introduced first. Not exactly round and, it turns out, not exactly popular even at 25 cents a stick. Padrón couldn’t understand why the cigar didn’t sell. He was fond of telling the story.

“I had a customer who would come in and he would always ask me when I was going to make him a fuma,” Padrón would recount. Long story short, Padrón had his roller make some fumas. Next time the customer came in, he bought the pig-tailed cigar. No one else was making a fuma in Miami at the time. Padrón designed packaging to showcase the curly head and the cigars took off, reminding recently arrived Cuban exiles of what they often smoked back home. Sales of Padrón cigars took off.

WHAT IS A FUMA?

The word fuma means “to smoke.” A fuma cigar, at its most basic, is one made from leftover tobacco used to make premium, long-filler cigars. In Cuba, these scraps would be taken by rollers and made into cigars that they would take home and smoke. A fuma, essentially, started out as the cigar of the torcedor (roller). The filler could be short or a mix of long and short – what’s known as a “Cuban Sandwich.” While the fuma would traditionally be finished with a pigtail, that’s not necessarily the case today. And, while you’re unlikely to find them for a quarter, fumas are still a bargain, often having a similar flavor to the cigars into which the long-filler went to make a premium smoke.

THE CUBAN TRADITION LIVES

While the Cuban cigar industry is controlled by the state, the tradition of the fuma is alive and well on most tobacco-growing plantations in Pinar del Rio, the western province famous for its cigar tobacco. Visit the Robaina farm, for example, and you might be treated to a fuma, a smallish panatela, that the founder, the late Alejandro Robaina, would call “Mi fuma,” or “My smoke.” My tobacco, my cigar, my smoke, he could have added.

SHAPE SHIFTING

While the classic fuma is often a Lonsdale or Corona, the fumas on the market today are not bound by tradition when it comes to shape and size. More often, today’s fumas are defined by the use of mixed-filler and a relatively affordable price point. And they deliver flavor.

TODAY’S FUMAS

Even some of the most popular brands make a version of the fuma. Among them, Rocky Patel offers choices. They are exclusive to Holt’s. Rocky Patel Caddy’s Choice Mulligans, as the name suggests, are named after the golf term for “do over,” as in “taking a Mulligan.” The cigar uses Cuban Sandwich filler inside a Sumatra wrapper. It’s solidly medium in power with notes of coffee, cream, nuts, and leather. The blend reminds you of a softer Rocky Patel Vintage 1992. This is a great cigar to take out on the course, with each shape named for something from the links. There’s the Sand Wedge, at 6 x 50, and less than $35 for a bundle of 20. The Putter is a Robusto, 5 x 50, at less than $30 for 20 cigars. The Churchill is The Driver, at 7 x 50, less than $40 for a bundle of 20. You get the idea.

Padilla Fumas come in three different wrappers, all surrounding Nicaraguan mixed-filler. The mild-medium Connecticut delivers a lot of nuttiness inside an Ecuador Connecticut wrapper. There’s some sweetness and creaminess here too. Try the Torpedo, 6.25 x 52, less than $45 for a bundle of 20. The Habano uses a Honduran-grown Habano wrapper to create a medium-full flavor profile with strong hints of leather, earthiness, pepper, and coffee. The Maduro is also medium-full, with the Robusto, 5 x 50, less than $40 for 20, packing dark chocolate, raisins and espresso flavors inside a Honduran Maduro wrapper.

If you go for the very mellow at a great bargain, give the Argyle Fumas a shot. At $1.24 a stick, the Robusto, 5 x 50, $24.95 for 20, is a layup. This Dominican cigar has a Sumatra wrapper around Cuban Sandwich filler bringing notes of coffee with cream and nuts to a palate-pleasing level.

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